How do you get your garden ready for spring? That’s easy … just buy some bulbs! I just can’t resist the spring bulb season. As soon as the bulbs go on sale in August I get excited. I keep telling everyone that I don’t have room for any more plants. I’m sure that’s a phrase that so many of you can relate to! However, there’s always room for a few more bulbs.
Spring bulbs are probably the best investment any gardener can make. Most of them reliably re-flower year after year (with the exception of tulips) and multiply with little or no help from the gardener.
Perfect for growing
under deciduous trees,
shrubs, or in pots!
How to get your garden ready for Spring
For spring colour I’m growing some more Muscari bulbs. They are commonly known as Grape Hyacinths as their flowers resemble an upside-down bunch of grapes. The bulbs like to be grown in a location that’s very sunny in the spring but gets a little more shade as the summer progresses. They’re also great flowers for the newly emerged queen bumblebees to feed on. The RHS list them as deer and rabbit resistant, though it really depends on how inquisitive and hungry they are!
Most of you will know of the common blue and white-edged grape hyacinth Muscari armenaicum. This scented plant happily multiplies every year along my hedges though it could become invasive given the right conditions. There are others that are not invasive, quite inexpensive though they might not be just as hardy.
I already grow the two-toned Muscari latifolium AGM with lower dark violet flowers and upper pale blue flowers. It’s quite tall at 8” with neat broad leaves though it might need a little protection in a very cold Perthshire winter. Mine is planted next to a south-facing patio and it’s usually in flower throughout April.
A few years ago I introduced the scented Muscari armenaicum ‘Valerie Finnis’ into the garden. It has tightly packed powder-blue flowers in April though the leaves are very untidy. Like the common blue grape hyacinth, it will self-seed in the garden and it grows to about 7” tall.
Planting Muscari azureum Bulbs
Now I’m adding the scented Muscari azureum AGM which flowers March/April.
It grows to 6” tall and has lower frilly china-blue flowers with neat leaves. Mine are going into the new alpine troughs that I made this summer using polystyrene fish boxes covered in mortar.
The soil in my troughs is very free draining with an equal mix of John Innes No 2, horticultural grit, and horticultural sand as I’ve other alpines growing there too.
The bulbs are easy to grow but like the M.latifolium are only frost hardy. The bulbs will be well insulated in my troughs but if the weather gets really cold then I’ll be able to move them indoors until the weather improves.
All bulbs need to be planted in well-drained soil so if I’m planting bulbs in a different planted container I’ll either use bulb fibre or a mix of 2 parts John Innes No 2 to 1 part grit.
Best To Plant in September
When you’re buying bulbs choose ones that are plump and firm to the touch and don’t have any mold on them. It’s best to plant your bulbs in early autumn as most need a long season of growth – 3 full months before the shortest day of the year. The ground will be warm in September and the bulbs will make good root growth which encourages better flowering in the spring. Plant at the right planting depth as stated on each packet and add a little Growmore fertilizer into each planting hole. They won’t need to be fed again until after they’ve flowered.
However, tulips are best planted from late October onwards – after the first one or two touches of frost when the ground isn’t frozen as they have a short season of growth.
How to Deter Squirrels
If you’ve got problems with squirrels digging up any of your newly planted bulbs cover your tracks and place some leaf litter over the soil. If you have a larger drift peg down some chicken wire over the bulbs and cover it will soil and bark. The bulbs will grow through the holes in the wire and if the squirrels don’t see any soil disturbance they will usually leave your bulbs alone.
Finally, here are the photos of the Muscari azureum in flower in the alpine trough the following Spring. I personally prefer to photograph the flowers when they are only open at the base as it gives a frilly look to the flowers.